A doppelgänger (// or /-/; German: [ˈdɔpl̩ˌɡɛŋɐ] ( listen), literally "double-goer") is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions and stories equate a doppelgänger with an evil twin. In modern times, the term twin stranger is occasionally used. The word "doppelgänger" is often used in a more general and neutral sense to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person.
The word doppelgänger is a loanword from the German Doppelgänger, consisting of the two substantives Doppel (double) Gänger (walker or goer). The singular and plural forms are the same in German, but English usually prefers the plural "doppelgängers." It was first used by Jean Paul in the novel Siebenkäs (1796), and his newly coined word is explained by a footnote.
As is true for all other nouns in German, the word is written with an initial capital letter. In English, the word should be uncapitalized (doppelgänger). It is also common to drop the diacritic umlaut, writing "doppelganger."
English-speakers have only recently applied this German word to a paranormal concept. Francis Grose's Provincial Glossary of 1787 used the term fetch instead, defined as the "apparition of a person living." Catherine Crowe's book on paranormal phenomena The Night-Side of Nature (1848) helped make the German word well-known. However, the concept of alter egos and double spirits has appeared in the folklore, myths, religious concepts, and traditions of many cultures throughout human history.
In Ancient Egyptian mythology, a ka was a tangible "spirit double" having the same memories and feelings as the person to whom the counterpart belongs. The Greek Princess presents an Egyptian view of the Trojan War in which a ka of Helen misleads Paris, helping to stop the war.. This is depicted in Euripides' play Helen. In Norse mythology, a vardøger is a ghostly double who is seen performing the person's actions in advance. In Finnish mythology, this is called having an etiäinen, "a firstcomer". The doppelgänger is a version of the Ankou, a personification of death, in Breton, Cornish, and Norman folklore.
Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the doppelgänger double as a counterpart to the self in Prometheus Unbound. Lord Byron uses doppelgänger imagery to explore the duality of human nature. Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky's novel The Double represents the doppelgänger as an opposite personality who exploits the character failings of the protagonist to take over his life. Charles Williams' Descent into Hell (1939) has character Pauline Anstruther seeing her own doppelgänger all through her life. Clive Barker's story "Human Remains" in his Books of Blood is a doppelgänger tale, and the doppelgänger motif is a staple of Gothic fiction.
English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's drama Prometheus Unbound (1820) makes reference to a dead child who "met his own image walking in the garden". German playwright Goethe described an experience in his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit in which he and his double passed one another on horseback.
With the advent of social media, there have been several reported cases of people finding their "twin stranger" online, a modern term for a doppelgänger. Twinstrangers.net is a website where users can upload a photo of themselves and facial recognition software attempts to match them with another user of like appearance. The site reports that it has found numerous living doppelgängers—including three living doppelgängers of its founder Niamh Geaney.
Heautoscopy is a term used in psychiatry and neurology for the hallucination of "seeing one's own body at a distance". It can occur as a symptom in schizophrenia and epilepsy, and is considered a possible explanation for doppelgänger phenomena.
Criminologists find a practical application in the concepts of facial familiarity and similarity due to the instances of wrongful convictions based on eyewitness testimony. In one case, a person spent 17 years behind bars persistently denying any involvement with the crime of which he was accused. He was finally released after someone was found who shared a striking resemblance and the same name.
- Alter ego
- Capgras delusion
- Doppelganger Week
- Evil twin
- Fetch (folklore)
- Syndrome of subjective doubles
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- Charles Williams, Descent into Hell, Faber and Faber
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- Prometheus Unbound, lines 191-199
- The Autobiography of Wolfgang von Goethe. Translated by John Oxenford. Horizon Press, 1969. This example cited by Crowe in The Night-Side of Nature (1848).
- Mitchell, Laura (2017-05-18). "Man sits next to stranger who looks EXACTLY like him on plane". Dailystar.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
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- Geaney, Niamh (20 November 2015). Niamh meets her THIRD doppelgänger (YouTube video).
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- Mary Emily O'Hara. Kansas Inmate Freed After Doppelganger Found 17 Years Later, NBC News, June 12, 2017.
- Brugger, P; Regard, M; Landis, T. (1996). Unilaterally Felt ‘‘Presences’’: The Neuropsychiatry of One’s Invisible Doppelgänger. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology 9: 114-122.
- Keppler, C. F. (1972). The Literature of the Second Self. University of Arizona Press.
- Maack, L. H; Mullen, P. E. (1983). The Doppelgänger, Disintegration and Death: A Case Report. Psychological Medicine 13: 651-654.
- Miller, K. (1985). Doubles: Studies in Literary History. Oxford University Press.
- Rank, O. (1971, originally published in German, Der Doppelgänger, 1914). The Double: A Psychoanalytic Study. The University of North Carolina Press.
- Prel, Carl du, Die monistische Seelenlehre, Beitrag zur Lösung des Menschenrätsels, Leipzig, Günthers Verlag, 1888.
- Reed, G. F. (1987). Doppelgänger. In Gregory R. L. The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford University Press. pp. 200–201.
- Todd, J; Dewhurst, K. (1962). The Significance of the Doppelgänger (Hallucinatory Double) in Folklore and Neuropsychiatry. Practitioner 188: 377-382.
- Todd, J; Dewhurst, K. (1955). The Double: Its Psycho-Pathology and Psycho-Physiology. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 122: 47-55.
- Hill, David A. How I Met Myself. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 9780521750189
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